There’s a joyful buzz in the air ever since South Africa was removed from the highly restrictive UK ‘red list’. The incredible news has been met with a surge in UK bookings to South Africa as people in Britain scrambled to secure their tickets for a blissful summer in SA, reports IOL.
But there’s a new hurdle that’s rearing its ugly head, and distance is at the forefront of this discussion. According to Business Insider, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, is due to present his Autumn Budget and Spending Review this week, which will include an update to its system for taxing flights based on distance.
South Africa is around 175 km too far away from Britain, and as per The Guardian, travellers to South Africa might be expected to pay more considering the environmental damage caused by long-haul flights.
This news has the potential to further impact the South African tourist industry that’s heavily reliant on UK tourists. Stats SA reported that the UK topped the overseas visitor list for South Africa in both 2019 and 2020 whereby more than 430 000 UK travellers visited SA in 2019. Yet, the beginning of 2021 saw a significant decline as fewer than than 8 000 UK travellers arrived in SA during the first five months of this year.
This has severely impacted the South African economy to the point where it was losing over R180 million every week it remained on the UK’s ‘red list’ for travel, as a new study from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) revealed.
Earlier this year, the global tourism body’s research showed that these restrictions could represent losses of over R790 million every month based on 2019 UK visitor numbers and spending. This amounts to more than R26 million every day, BusinessTech explains.
In the same vein, Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier stated that: “In 2019, approximately 194,900 UK tourists visited the Western Cape, spending on average R24,200 per tourist.”
The Guardian further explains that as it stands, the Air passenger duty (APD) is charged in two bands for two starkly different rates of tax – to destinations under 2 000 miles from the UK and above 2 000 miles, with business class passengers paying more.
If Sunak follows this approach, he will change two-band system into one of three bands which will consist of countries up to 2 000 miles away, those between 2 000 miles and 5 500 miles, and those farther away than 5 500 miles. The motivation behind this is to have a higher rate levied on the longest journeys to discourage such travel, bearing in mind that the UK is committed to net zero carbon by 2050.
When measured from capital to capital, South Africa is just over 5 600 miles away from the United Kingdom, and could potentially avoid this high tax by naming the northerly town of Louis Trichardt its capital.